Inverted Gear Blog

Mastering the “When” of Technique

 

When I was new to jiu-jitsu, a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed white belt, I struggled to grasp the idea of when to use a particular technique. I thought that if I mastered the series of steps that made up executing a move, then I would be able to use that move effectively when I rolled. In practical application, being able to do the move—as in the physical coordination and finesse required to move from the start to end of a technique—is only the most basic prerequisite of making the technique work in a live situation.

You have to master the when, or the timing of the technique. In the flurry of a roll, that’s not always easy, so let’s break it down.

The when, or the opportunity, to use a technique has three elements (or at least this is how I think of it):

  • Trigger: What is the stimulus (or indicator) that tells me I should use this specific technique?
  • Space: How much space is between me and my opponent, and which variation of a technique is appropriate for that space?
  • Movement: Where does the opening for a technique begin and where does it end?

Trigger

I picked up the idea of triggers from reading early Aesopian blog posts. A trigger is what tells me that I should use a certain technique. “If your opponent puts her arm here, you should do this.” When we are white belts, triggers are really basic and clear situations, like someone reaching across your body in your close guard to give you the armbar. As you get to be more advanced, triggers become more and more nuanced because skilled training partners are less likely to make big obvious mistakes. Instead, you have to identify small gaps that you can exploit and build into something bigger.

Analyze techniques as you learn them to ingrain the trigger in your mind. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. How is my opponent positioned in the ideal opportunity for this technique?
  2. Why would my opponent end up in this position (what is he trying to do or how can I get him here)?
  3. How much of the position can I change before the technique won’t work anymore (what if her foot is here instead of there or the grip lower instead of higher, etc)?

Space

When we are white belts, we often learn the “easiest” versions of techniques and build into more advanced variations and set ups later. Think back to the first armbar you learned: It was probably from mount or closed guard, and your training partner hands you the armbar with little resistance. You have a comfortable amount of space to work as you isolate and cut the angle for the submission. Later, you learn that you can dig out an armbar when an opponent stacks you or that you can hike your hips into the air and climb into an armbar when your opponent stands in your closed guard. When you get really fancy, you learn that you can even jump into an armbar from the standing position.

The mechanics of the armbar are not all that different—you need to get to the same essential position to finish the attack—but the amount of space available changes how you react to the trigger of the arm being out of position. Generally (very generally), there are three types of space: close, mid-range, far. The mid-range tends to be the easiest to learn because your opponent is close enough for you to access the grips you need without much trouble but not so close that you feel squashed or like you are spelunking to get the attack you want.

When you are learning a new technique, try to start with the mid-range variation first and then explore close or far later. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How much space am I working with, or which space variation am I in right now?
  • How would this attack change if my partner was close or farther away?
  • At what extreme, close or far, is this technique no longer practical?

Movement

In a classroom environment, we often learn techniques in very static situations. Our partners stand exactly where we need them to, and they wait for us to execute the technique of the day. This is a perfectly acceptable way to learn something new, but for us to move from drilling to live application, we need to also think about movement. The opportunity to use a technique is often on a gradient, the in-between as an opponent moves from point A to point B.

Even a relatively inexperienced white belt will not flop an arm on your chest and wait for you to armbar. They might be making the wrong decision, but they are trying to do something or get somewhere with the movement. The most advanced grapplers build a web of funnels so that even when their opponent makes the “right” move they have a more powerful counter prepared.

To improve your ability to launch an attack in transition, isolate the position during rolls or open mat (working only from closed guard if you are improving closed guard attacks). Work with progressively more skilled opponents as you get better, or ask your partners to scale back resistance until you improve. As you practice, ask yourself questions like:

  • Where is my opponent trying to get to when I use this technique?
  • What are the absolute earliest and latest moments that I could apply this technique?
  • Can I move myself into the ideal situation for the technique? How would I do that, and when is the best time?

Conclusion

No matter how good your instructor is, covering all of this nuanced material in a class is difficult, and that challenge is made more complex by nuances in bodytypes and physical abilities. If you can develop a process for how you think about jiu-jitsu ideas and for how you analyze and breakdown technique, your learning will dramatically improve. Better yet, you can bring well-formed and specific questions to your instructor when you get stumped.

Read more →

Parallels Between BJJ and Magic: The Gathering

It’s no secret that many in the Panda Nation are big Magic: The Gathering players, including Nelson, Hillary, Reilly, and myself. The fantasy card game comes up almost every time we are on a podcast, and MTG terminology often sneaks into the Inverted Gear blog posts, like Nelson’s use of “metagame.” Nelson and I have packed MTG decks for Globetrotter camps. In fact, the first time I met Nelson and Hillary in person was when they stopped by to train and then play Commander, our favorite version of MTG.

In this blog post, I want to draw parallels between Magic and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Prepare yourself because we’re going full nerd for this one.

A Game with Many Types of Players

In both MTG and BJJ, you have a wide variety of people engaging in “the same” activity with different goals and levels of competitiveness. Each can be broadly divided between casual or competitive, with players falling at different points on the spectrum. In BJJ, we talk about hobbyists versus competitors.

In MTG, you have “kitchen table Magic” between friends, Friday Night Magic at local game shops, regional Pro Tour Qualifiers, Grands Prix, and even a Pro Tour including a World Championship. If this is the first time you’ve heard of professional Magic players and you’re scoffing at the idea, let me tell you BJJ wishes it had the $50,000-250,000 prize purses that the MTG Pro Tour pays out.

The BJJ has similar tiers, such as garage grapplers, individual BJJ schools, local and regional tournaments, and the big events like Pan Ams and Worlds.

In both MTG and BJJ, I have seen personality conflicts between players when their goals do not line up. In MTG, you sometimes get a cutthroat “winning is all that matters” player crushing the more casual players. In BJJ, you get the “always goes 100%” guy who treats every match like the Worlds finals. On the flipside, you sometimes get a casual player showing up at a serious event and getting crushed.

It’s not that one way is right or wrong, but that understanding where you and others fall on the spectrum will help you find the right training environment and training partners to get what you want out of your training.

The Metagame

The “metagame” is the eagle’s eye view of all the strategies competitors are employing, paying special attention to what is winning. In MTG, this is often done by studying tournament results to see what deck lists were played. In BJJ, we pay attention to what techniques are popular and winning matches. To “metagame,” you predict what you will be facing and come prepared to beat it. The simplest way to say it is “I think everyone else will be doing ____, so I’m doing ____.”

In BJJ, we see this when certain techniques become dominant and warp the entire game around them. The berimbolo is the biggest modern example of a metagame warping strategy. Competitors are faced with 1) using the strategy themselves, 2) developing a counter to it, or 3) hoping to dodge anyone using it. When this goes too far and becomes detrimental to the sport or game, organizers may need to step in with rules changes and bannings.

You can build a deck or plan a grappling gameplan that looks good on paper, but flops out in real life because it matches up poorly against what the other competitors are doing. Or you can come up with a quirky plan that runs against traditional logic but it lines up just right against the field, if just for one tournament.

The metagame also includes understanding the rules of the game and figuring out the best way to take advantage of them. In BJJ, this is often where competitors come up with tactics that bore spectators but win matches, like double guard pulls and stalling just enough to run down the clock without getting warnings.

Knowing Your Match Ups

Metagaming is mostly in the preparation, but you still need get down to winning one match at a time. You need to quickly get a read on your opponent so you can predict what to expect out of them.

In MTG, this is done through play testing, which is playing decks to see how they match up against other decks (or against the same deck, in what’s called the mirror match). This is where you learn how to alter your strategy when facing different opponents. What’s important in one match up may not matter in another. A MTG team will test decks and tweak them to figure out what they are bringing to the next tournament.

In BJJ, you develop your ability to implement or adapt your gameplan through sparring against a wide variety of grapplers. You need to know how to deal with all types: pressure passers, wrestlers, guard wizards, footlock specialists, etc.


If you liked this BJJ and MTG mashup, please let me know in the comments and we’ll make more of it. If you want to play digital CCGs with me, you can add me on Hearthstone as Aesopian#1325 and Eternal as Aesopian+8911.

Read more →

Ask a Panda: Significant Others Are People Too

Question: I have been training jiu-jitsu for a while (I am a blue belt), since long before I met my current boyfriend. He is a black belt and runs an academy, and since we have been together, I have taken on an unintended role as a woman in a gym dating the instructor. I help teach kids and do admin work. I watch the gym and open the door when he isn’t there, not teaching adults but making open mats possible.

I didn’t start jiu-jitsu because of him and do not continue because of him but because I like jiu-jitsu and want something from it for me. I have not stopped having big dreams of my own; I train as hard as I can, and I compete, and compared to many people at my gym I am fairly experienced.

But sometimes I feel like I don’t get respect, just because the academy owner is my boyfriend, even from people I outrank. I have had instances where people are nasty to me like they think I think I am just some princess in the gym, which I do not believe I am, or that my successes are a direct result of my proximity to him and not my own work and dedication. Sometimes it seems my boyfriend is harder on me than on some of the other students, and while he does coach me in tournaments, he does the same for everyone else. I do not ask for special treatment, and I do not ever remind anyone that the instructor and I are dating.

My question is: How do I handle the nastiness in my own academy? I don’t feel I should have to explain myself because I know I work hard and am in jiu-jitsu for me. But I also don’t feel I should have to put up with rudeness because some people have jumped to faulty conclusions.

Answer: It’s a shame you are dealing with this. I doubt you are the first significant other to experience this kind of treatment, and sadly, I doubt you will be the last. It is true that sometimes significant others expect preferential treatment and otherwise act entitled, but I can usually smell when people are being entitled, and that is not what this sounds like.

Frankly, I would say the people who are treating you this way are acting lazy and foolish. They are acting lazy because they have just decided to adopt the storied tradition of blaming the girlfriend, which has even been memorialized in the Urban Dictionary under the entry “Yoko syndrome,” without first gathering relevant data (how you treat them, how you act generally, how your boyfriend acts toward you compared to them, etc). They are acting foolish because in large part you are the one who facilitates their jiu-jitsu lives, and if I am any indication, I am much less eager to help someone who is acting like one or more of the body parts that are covered by bathing suits. So, even if you were being overly demanding, it does not behoove them to be mean.

Of course, this does not answer your question, but perhaps you can casually post this story on the wall or on the academy website and suggest people give it a read.

Now, to your question. I have used this saw before, but regardless of what you think of Dr. Phil, the following statement of his is compelling: We teach people how to treat us. In other words, if people are treating us in a way that we do not like and we say nothing, then we are sending them the message that their behavior is acceptable. The question I have for you is: If this were not your boyfriend’s business, would you allow these people to treat you this way?

I mention the fact that this behavior is happening in your boyfriend’s place of business for a reason: I’m guessing that you do not want to rock the boat with his students, who contribute to his livelihood. So, it makes sense that you would want some input from him about the kind of environment he is trying to create. With that in mind, consider these questions as well: What is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the academy, and whose job is it to police the inappropriate behavior? Which is considered more of a priority: keeping students or requiring a certain code of behavior?

It sounds like you do not have clear answers to those questions, and that limits what you can do or say. If you can establish some shared understanding, then you will know how you can proceed, if and when you decide you want to speak up about someone’s treatment of you.

In short, get on the same page as your boyfriend about what constitutes acceptable behavior and about how transgressions of those expectations are to be handled. Good luck, and here’s hoping the people who are acting this way pick up a clue somewhere.

Read more →

Chasing the Good Ol’ Days Magic

10 years ago, the jiu-jitsu scene in Pittsburgh was radically different. Where most cities—like New York or San Diego or Seattle—had attracted multiple black belts and sprouted thriving jiu-jitsu cultures, Pittsburgh was still clawing its way to relevancy. When I started, there were no black belt instructors available, and it would be several years before there was more than one gym within driving distance to choose from.

In those days, with so few training options available, many of us pooled our resources and our knowledge to make the most of our training time and to learn as much as we could.

Back then, my blue belt was a hot commodity. A local professional fighter invited me to join him and his friends for weekly training sessions in a local high school wrestling room. One of the guys was a coach and teacher there, so we could key in late in the evening and train undisturbed for hours.

The ritual is one that I miss. Pulling into a vast parking lot after dark, looping around the building to find a cluster of cars gathered around the side door by the mat room. If you were early, a group of fighters would be huddled there too, riffing about MMA or about girls beneath a streetlight. With myself as the exception, everyone had aspirations of MMA stardom. They had bouts booked and dreamed of climbing the amateur ranks to eventually turn pro.

For the next hour and a half, we’d rotate through drills and sparring rounds. Whoever had the most experience in a subject lead the training on that topic, and sometimes we would circle up and swap theory and technique that we might have picked up separate from the group. The room thundered with pad work, and if someone got angry, it was at themselves for a mistake.

We trained hard, and as we filed out the side door and back into the night, we’d pick up on the conversation threads that we dropped on our way in.

What I loved about this ritual was that even though MMA was an individual sport, the people that came to the mat room had a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality. Nobody was paying dues. Nobody was tracking memberships. You came to improve, and you paid by being a body for someone else and by sharing the knowledge you had. Even when guys weren’t preparing for fights, they’d come because they knew that their training partners needed them.

My impression of jiu-jitsu gyms is that most started this way—a few people in a garage pouring over old VHS tapes and tattered issues of Grappling Magazine—but along the way the spirit of this sort of training can fade. As numbers grow and business interests increase and friendships drift, the comradery of being in “it” together fades. People scan their cards. They take class. They leave.

I don’t mean to wax poetically about some nostalgic memories. My point is that this magic that comes with first starting something new and immersing yourself in a collaborative creative process doesn’t have to die. It will likely need to evolve as you approach a decade or more of training, but the magic doesn’t need to wither away completely.

In my own way, I’ve been trying to find ways to revisit what made training feel special and find ways to keep my adoration and passion for jiu-jitsu burning brightly for the long haul and through hard times. Here is what I’ve come up with:

  • Embrace what jiu-jitsu means for you, and accept that meanings can change. When my health started to decline and my capacity for training multiple times a day (or even multiple times a week) disappeared, I recognized that what I loved most about jiu-jitsu was being in a good training environment with good people. Today, I will pass up a fancy seminar for 2 hours of hanging out in a mat room doing rounds with close friends. I am still addicted to the learning aspects of the art, but that learning is fuel for making these sessions even more fun.

  • Give back as much as you take. While I agree with the consumer-centric perspective of modern jiu-jitsu (that you, as a student, are paying for a service and are therefore a customer), the idea of a team should not be forgotten. That saying about boats and tides does ring true, as corny it may sound. You might not be running class, but being a good training partner or taking the time to pair off with a new student are things that you should be able to find enjoyment from. If you help to set and maintain that example, the quality of your training experience overall should improve as more people follow that lead.

  • Training will never be perfect all of the time, so lean into the harder times. When jiu-jitsu is new and fresh, every session is fun and interesting. As time marches on, however, the grind as some call it can get pretty rough. If your expectations are set to the white belt high level of everything be awesome, your blue and purple and brown belt years will be harder to face. This is why you need to reflect on what jiu-jitsu means for you and what aspects of training bring you joy. If you start to feel jiu-jitsu getting dull or grueling, give it a chance to swing back around, and then revisit those important (to you) aspects to drag yourself out of the worst slumps.

  • Fill in the blanks that a formal environment creates. When I was first told to take charge of my own training, I thought that just meant holding myself accountable for drilling or showing up to class on time. Today, my perspective is that the formal structure of a well-run academy simplifies a lot of the potentially difficult aspects of training jiu-jitsu—Finding mat space, finding training partners, getting worthwhile instruction—but that skeleton will not automate all of your jiu-jitsu experience for you. You can take charge of your own training session by coordinating with students to be present at an open mat to work on specific material, by caravanning to seminars and tournaments with your training partners, or by being a positive force in and out of class (for example).

While I recognize that nostalgia can make an imperfect experience seem perfect in retrospect, I think that I’ve been able to rekindle my love for jiu-jitsu by looking at what I enjoyed about those sessions and using those experiences as a measuring stick for my future training choices. The faces and mats by different, but I know what I enjoy about jiu-jitsu, and I’m putting in the work to structure my training around what matters to me. And that’s produced instant returns for my development and for enjoyment.

Read more →

Meet the Pandas – The Power of Sneakyjitsu – Alex Da Silva

Not every member of the Panda Nation is a lean and mean competition death machine, like purple belt Abi Pacinelli, who we spoke to in the previous edition of Meet the Pandas. In this new interview, we shed light on Alex Da Silva: purple belt kids’ instructor, full-time dad and working man, photography black belt and aficionado of sneaky-jitsu.

Growing up in Brazil, you sort of assume that purple Alex Da Silva (40) got into jiu-jitsu at a young age. But after immigrating to the United States at nine years old, it took many years and a trip back to the motherland to get his first real taste of the gentle art. Plagued with injuries and with life responsibilities getting in the way, Alex took the long road to develop his jiu-jitsu. In the end though, the art gave him a great way to bond with his kids.

So Alex, what kind of sports were you into before jiu-jitsu?

Alex Da Silva: I was that kid that would go outside and play all sorts of sports with my friends. Soccer, baseball, football, basketball, whatever. Once I got to high school, I actually got involved with competitive swimming. I did a bit of that in college too, but nothing related to jiu-jitsu, like wrestling or other combat sports.

Funny you mention swimming. Carlos Saquic Pérez, the first Panda I interviewed in this series, was also a swimmer in school. Did you get some carry-over from that sport?

ADS: In a way, it’s kind of similar to jiu-jitsu because you’re out there competing by yourself, against yourself. In a race, you always go against your own time and your technique. I was never a really good swimmer because I started too late in life, but my coach used to tell me—and this really relates to jiu-jitsu—‘It’s okay if you’re not the first or the second. Just compete against yourself, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Try to improve a little bit every time you enter a competition. And afterwards pay attention to what you did wrong, there’s always room for improvement.’ That’s what I took away from my swimming career.

That sounds like a blueprint for self-development in jiu-jitsu…

ADS: Come to think of it, it is! (Laughs) That’s a piece of advice I use when I teach kids: ‘don’t worry about what the other kids are doing, just make sure you’re doing the move right. You know how to compete; you know what to do. Just work on you own development.’

We all have to sharpen our own sword.

ADS: That’s very correct.

How did jiu-jitsu find you?

ADS: Well, I’m Brazilian so the art is part of my roots (laughs). My parents immigrated to the States when I was nine years old. They came over as tourists and they decided to stay. In 1996, I finished high school, and one year later I moved back to my home city Curitiba to experience the motherland. My skinny little 14-year-old cousin (named Jay Forte) used to train. Jay would come over to my house after school to how me some positions. I was a very athletic, fresh out of high school 18-year-old, and this scrawny kid just played with me. He dominated effortlessly. I was helpless like a baby. Man, it was a huge mental challenge to learn how to be comfortable in those positions. But I knew this was the right martial art for me.

So, did you become a mat-rat?

ADS: Sadly, no. Training seriously in Brazil never really happened because I started working as a flight attendant, and I had to move out of state. My work schedule was too full to get regular training in. I’d never have the same days off.

When did you finally commit?

ADS: I lived in the States from 9 until 18 years old. Then I tried my luck in Brazil for a while. See, growing up in the States I had very little recollection of what life in Brazil was like. Once I moved back, I found that I couldn’t adapt. I missed everything about America, but I stuck it out for a while and worked there almost three years. At the end of 2000, I had really had enough, and I finally moved back. That was also when I got into jiu-jitsu properly.

Tell me about your first gym.

ADS: After I got settled back in the States my friend Rob Da Silva (no relation) was learning capoeira, and he tried to get me to join the fun. But I wasn’t interested, I wanted jiu-jitsu and nothing else. Sure enough, after a few months he called me – they had started a jiu-jitsu program at his capoeira club. I guess this was early 2001. After the regular capoeira class, they would lay out a bunch of puzzle mats, and we would roll around on the floor.

How did you progress through the ranks?

ADS: My first instructor at the capoeira club was Johnny Guerrero. After about six months of training with Johnny, he was called to military duty due to the 9/11 terror attacks, and Josef Manuel (his purple belt) took over the school in his absence. Shortly after, the school closed down. Josef eventually opened his own place in Harrison, NJ, and I trained with him for a while. Then, I left jiu-jitsu for a bit and occasionally rolled around with a friend. At one point, I had to take a six-year break because life responsibilities took over. I went to college, after that I bought a house and got married. So, I had no time to train. Even when I did, I had no money.

When things settled down, I finally got back on the mat with my old friend Nuno Macedo, who was a brown belt at the time and had his own school. We were able to get about six months training in, during which he promoted me to blue belt, but then he had to close his school because he was hardly making any money. That’s when I found Sheridan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I’ve been there ever since. I received my purple belt from Kevin Sheridan after two years of solid training. It’s been a long road.

I respect the effort. Did you have to deal with injuries too?

ADS: I think that anyone who does jiu-jitsu for a while just has to learn how to adapt to dealing with injuries and soreness all the time. In February, I managed to separate my shoulder, and I was out for about three months. I would barely be able to train one day a week, and I would need the rest of the week to recover. I just try to do what I can. Three weeks ago, I sprained my thumb, which also sucks. I see stars with every little touch and every time I close my first.

What do you do to keep fit, besides jiu-jitsu?

ADS: Currently I’m on the mat three days a week, and I try to go to sleep early. I feel that’s the
best way to heal my body. I need at least eight hours of sleep in order to function the next day at work and to have the energy to train and teach. I have two kids, a boy and a girl. They’ll both be nine years old in December. When I’m not training or working I spend time with them. I have no room for anything but family, work, and jiu-jitsu. All my physical fitness comes through jiu-jitsu.

What was the hardest thing to learn?

ADS: Trying to develop an adaptive game is the biggest struggle that I’ve had. See, I have partners of all ages and body types. Some are young, fast, and athletic. Others are way, way stronger that I am. You have to create different types of games for different types of opponents. A one-size-fits-all game is not going to work. I used to think that I only needed one good armbar to catch everyone. But sadly, that’s not the case (laughs). The bigger guys grind their way out, and the little ones are just too fast to catch in the first place. It’s all trial and error. At first, I can pull off my tricky stuff on the lower belts, but eventually they will come up with a good defense. You have to always keep evolving.

What’s your game like?

ADS: I alternate a lot, and I try to analyze the parts that need work. I mostly play guard and I love to sweep and reverse people from bad positions. My game is very open. I’m okay with dealing with pressure. When big guys try to crush me from side control, I love to reverse them out of the blue. Just when they thought they were almost there… It really breaks the spirit. So, I like to play mind-games, and I use a lot of baiting. I love sneakyjitsu.

If you had to pick one, what kind of animal are you on the mat?

ADS: Man, that’s a hard question. I’m always attacking, and I never surrender. Even when I get caught I always try to wiggle my way out. I try to never stop moving until I die, or I’m able to escape. What kind of animal does that? A Tasmanian devil? (Laughs) I’ll go for that one.

You’re one of the kids instructors at Sheridan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. How did you make the transition to teaching?

ADS: About four years ago, Kevin had just started a kids’ program. As it happens, those classes were being held on my regular training days. I would often get there early, and I started assisting the instructor. After a while, I became the official assistant, and we were able to expand the program. I was already a dad, so I knew how to deal with kids and their short attention spans. I try to break the instruction down to bite-size bits.

What did teaching do for your own development?

ADS: I had to re-learn and study a lot of jiu-jitsu, especially the stuff that I kind of did on instinct. I was constantly pulling off moves that work well for my body type, but might not be suitable for other people. A lot of details were missing. That renewed attention to detail really improved my understanding. Now, I’m able to explain the dynamics and principles behind the moves.

How has the art improved your life?

ADS: Through jiu-jitsu, I’ve been able to create a very special bond with my kids. They started training at four years old, and I’ve been their teacher for four and a half years now. It’s so much
fun being on the mat with them, to see them working their way out of all the positions. It’s very empowering. We’re all so busy with work and school that it’s a great feeling to be able to roll around the mat together. When I train with my kids, I basically get to hug them all the time. And at home, my back, neck and arms are never safe (laughs). I always get attacked! Jiu-jitsu creates a lot of good memories for our family.

You seem to be the resident photographer at Sheridan BJJ. How did you get into photography?

ADS: Ever since my kids were born, I wanted to capture all those precious moments for our family. My brother lives in California, and my parents live in Brazil. Photos become little windows into a memory. I’ve always loved taking pictures, even before digital. When I started, it was really impractical to bring a big analogue camera along, so I don’t have a lot of pictures of myself in my early days. Now, I try to give something back to my teammates. I take lots of pictures at open mats, during regular classes, promotions, and competitions. I’m just trying to capture those memories so they can share them with their friends and families. I’ve been able to document some of my friends’ progression through all the ranks. It’s a special thing.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in jiu-jitsu?

ADS: Don’t give up, and keep training. Jiu-jitsu might enter and leave your life, depending on circumstances, but the bond you build with people is really special and hard to find anywhere else. On the mat, you really get to know each other’s character. And if you have family members training, that’s even better.

Alex Da Silva teaches at www.sheridanbjj.com. Follow him on Instagram: @luckymacaw1977
Daniël Bertina is a writer and BJJ black belt based in the Netherlands. Follow him on Instagram: @ashiorigami

Read more →